So much for Car Free living….

We had an ambition a while ago, and that was to go to car-free living so we tried quite hard to sell the car and increase our walking, use of Bikes and Public Transport.  In the end, we have had to admit defeat and realise that it is just not practical.  While the walking and Cycling were ok as far as they went, the Public Transport System is just not geared up to be a cost-effective way of transporting the family, nor is it an easy option for anything much more complicated than a trip into town, especially with 3 kids.  The final nail in the plan was my starting up my new Business which requires me to travel to client sites and therefore I have had to buy another car and we are back to being a 2 car family.

I think we are probably not right back at the beginning, as we do use public transport more, and with the local amenities opening up in Kingsway, we are much more able to do things like shopping for day-to-day items on foot or bike.  But it has been eye-opening, and hugely disappointing to realise that to live by public transport for both work, home and pleasure is very expensive and not particularly convenient.  Just to take the kids swimming for an hour can require 3 hours being taken out of the day once you catch the bus, get into Gloucester, swim and get back again, and as our 7-year-old has to pay her fare too, then it’s not far off £10 per trip, as well as the glaring looks you get from some other passengers when you take your kids on the bus. 

Trying to commute by public transport was a nightmare too, bus to the train station took forever, followed by a train that was ok, but really expensive,  and the same in reverse coming home, providing your train was not full.  As for taking your bike on the train, the Bristol train can be very Bike unfriendly, particularly coming home and you just can’t fit on.  I have been left standing at Filton/Abbey Wood on a number of occasions.  Now I’m currently working in South Wales, it’s just not viable.

So what have we learned from this?  Firstly I think if it was possible, I would like to go car free.  The major supermarkets deliver quite cheaply now, and you can do a lot of the bigger stuff online if you plan it a bit.  However the public transport system is just way to expensive and unreliable to be used as your only mode of transport as a family.  I do think that having a railway station in Quedgeley would make a lot of difference to getting into the City, would make a great alternative to the bus which takes so long.  Striving for a more continental model where Public Transport is much nicer and cheaper would make it more attractive to the masses.  Maybe even a tram network for Gloucester and Cheltenham would be a really good investment in the future.  As for now, its back to the wheels!

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2 Comments so far:

  1. Eddie says:

    As you say, it was a brave experiment, but I thought it was doomed to failure at the time. Public transport is just not up to the job, especially when you are running a business.

  2. Amanda Kirby says:

    Love the ‘we tried QUITE hard to sell the car’! We didn’t try overly hard as we found out how little it was worth in the current market 🙁 The big problem is that bus travel costs in Gloucester are not geared up for family travel. The only child fares available are singles: there is no such thing as a child return, day rider or weekly ticket. We have 2 children aged over 5 yrs, who all have to pay on buses. Travelling within Gloucester requires 3 day riders at £3.20 each for me plus 3 children to get the bus. A week pass is about £11, I would need at least 3 of these, 4 if I included Barry. I have put £20 in my car so far this week, and it’s still going! To get from Gloucester to Stroud (a 15 min car journey) requires a Stagecoach family ‘Explorer’ ticket costing £12!

    My one big surprise on the public transport experiment has been travelling by train as a family. I took us all to Bristol for the day, used a Friends and Family Railcard, and added PlusBus to our tickets, which meant I could get a bus within Bristol from the station and back, all for £12. Total bargain! Petrol plus parking charges for a day out in Bristol would be about double that! I would probably do it again even though I now have a car at my disposal.

    I was finding we were feeling very trapped with no car, turning down invites to fun places like days out at Crickley Hill and Slimbridge, which are beyond the reach of public transport 🙁 One errand would take the whole day, rather than a quick ‘nip in’ on the way past that you do in a car!

    I have had my car back (having had to sacrifice it to the commuter!) for a whole 4 days now, I feel a great sense of freedom. Buses are fun, but are really limiting!

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